Merry Christmas from the Emmaus Immersion team! Our time in the Holy Land wouldn’t be complete without an experience of Holy Week in Jerusalem! We were so blessed to spend a long weekend in Jerusalem, staying at the guesthouse of the Assumptionist Fathers at St. Peter in Gallicantu Church. This church was built at the site of Jesus’ imprisonment, where St. Peter denied our Lord three times (Mark 14:30). In fact, the word “Gallicantu” is Latin for “cock’s crow.”
The pilgrims near St. Peter's
We began our "Holy Week" on Thursday morning, with a miniature Palm Sunday experience, ascending the Mount of Olives to Dominus Flevit Church, where we celebrated Divine Liturgy. Dominus Flevit, or “The Lord Wept,” is the site where Jesus cried over Jerusalem upon his final entry into the city (Luke 37-44). Standing on the top of the Mount gave us an incredible view of the city, and here we were able to reflect and pray, entering into Jesus’ love for this city and for his people. From there we headed to the Russian Orthodox Church of Mary Magdalene, where we venerated relics of St. Mary Magdalene and the apostles. We ended our “Palm Sunday” that afternoon, with a time of prayer at the Church of Bethphage, where Jesus sent his disciples to find a donkey before entering Jerusalem.
We moved into Holy Thursday by preparing a Seder meal together: eating, praying, and sharing together as Jesus and the Apostles did. That night we headed to adoration at the Garden of Gethsemane, where hundreds gathered for an hour of prayer, confession, and Eucharistic procession. We were moved to see so many pilgrims taking time out of their busy schedules to share in our Lord’s agony. Upon our return to St. Peter's, Fr. Anthony led us in a reflection on Jesus’ imprisonment and Peter’s denial. We then ended our night in a prayerful silence.
Preparing the Seder meal
The Church of the Agony
We began our Good Friday the next morning with Lauds at St. Peter’s, then took a hiatus from our solemn celebration because it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! We went where Mary may have been conceived, at the Church of Saint Anne in the Old City, which is the largest Crusader church still intact. An English bishop of an African diocese presided at Mass, and African seminarians led glorious songs of praise, and also invited us afterward for a time of sharing and snacks.
Fr. Anthony showing us a model of Byzantine era Jerusalem at St. Peter's
St. Anne's is located at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa. This “Way of Suffering” is the actual road Jesus walked on his way to the crucifixion, with some of the stations marked by chapels, while others are simply markers in the street. We took our time walking along and praying through the stations, often amidst the bustle of crowds of tourists and vendors. It was so beautiful to reflect on Jesus’ passion on the path He walked, and to carry a prayerful Christian presence in such a tangible way. We ended our walk at the Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose from the dead.